Explorations Along an Imaginary Coastline.  Photographs by Martha Casanave.
Explorations Along an Imaginary Coastline.  booktease preview.

Explorations Along an Imaginary Coastline.

Photographs by Martha Casanave.
Hudson Hills Press, Manchester, VT, 2006. 63 pp., black-and-white illustrations, 11¼x12½".

Approaching middle age, I’ve begun to experience a strange déjà vu at parties and gatherings where the children of my friends are present. They knock about among the knees of the adults, looking up at everything through the forced perspective of a two- or three- or four-year-old height. Their wide-angle eyes suck at the form and meaning of everything, expanding with an urgent need to record anything that may prove important. I remember being that small receptor, bumped through the crowd, my horizon beginning at pants pockets and shooting upward from there.
Martha Casanave, too, remembers this point of view and when the poetically driven portrait photographer was cajoled into taking her pinhole camera to the Central California Coast, she exposed her film by placing the disposable camera “anywhere a crab can go.” The low stance of these photographs not only capitalizes on the distorted nature of making images with a pinhole, but reminded Casanave of a playful child’s point of view. The larger metaphor that she explores by including a distant 19th-century figure haunting the reaches of several frames is to suggest the playful, low-tech and honest childhood of photography itself. In this, she risks a heavyhanded romanticism that, coupled with her wispy, coastal set-ups, nearly topples the entire exercise. Still, Explorations is, more than anything else, a pure celebration of light phenomenon and the pure pleasure of seeing an image miraculously reproduced. And that's worth a lot when I remember I'm still looking up and trying to make sense of things. ZANE FISCHER

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